Tips on Saving Money

Raquel StecherAbout Me
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Cheap Lunch - Come up with an idea for a cheap lunch. Make sure the ingredients are always on hand. Rely on this cheap lunch for at least 2-3 days a week. Sometimes I get bored with leftovers or there are no leftovers. Instead of buying lunch out, I make a tomato toast sandwich. I always have 12 grain bread, plum tomatoes and light mayo on hand. I toast the bread, add mayo and slices of tomatoes and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. With some yogurt or fruit on the side, this is my go-to cheap lunch. This cheap lunch works for me, develop one that works for you.

Cook at home more/ Make eating out a Luxury - Eating out at restaurants used to be a luxury and now its a regular occurring event for your average American family. Make going out to eat a luxury. Instead of buying take-out several nights a week or going out 2-3 times a week, go to a nice good quality restaurant 1-2 a month. You'll enjoy the dining experience a lot more when it's a rare treat and you'll save a lot of money. Also, Carlos and I found that an average dinner out costs us $60 which is half of our weekly grocery bill. It's just not worth doing that on a regular basis.

Stop going out for Brunch - A variation on the above tip. Carlos and I used to go out to Brunch every Sunday he had free. Now we hardly go and I make brunch at home. You'll save lots of money making some pancakes or french toast with some scrambled eggs and sausage and hot tea or coffee than you would getting all those same things at a restaurant and using up gas as well as paying tips.

Shop at Market Basket or a good cheap local grocer - Give up Stop n Shop and Star Market. Even with their loyalty cards the cost of shopping there is astronomical in comparison to other grocers. Also, if you are selective about  your produce as I am, make sure you buy only fresh produce at places like Whole Foods. Skip the prepared foods at all costs.

Reduce the number of sides and desserts at Thanksgiving - You don't really need that big of a spread. And you absolutely do NOT need appetizers at Thanksgiving. And why make more than one dessert if you have a small family gathering. Reduce, simplify!

Spend Less on Coffee and Tea - Skip Starbucks. If you have to get coffee out, go to McDonalds. Now I would never advocate eating at McDonalds but select McDonalds serve Organic Newman's Own Coffee and it's $1 for any size. Make your tea or coffee at home and put it in a to-go mug. Love Chai Lattes? Buy Oregon Chai and make your own latte at home with milk, soy milk or almond milk. A carton of Oregon Chai mix is about $4 at my local Whole Foods which is also the cost of a latte at my local cafe. The box of chai liquid makes numerous chai lattes!

Menu Plan for the Week - Plan out a week's worth of menus, build a grocery list of off that and buy only for that week. If you end up going out one day, then push one of your meals to the next day and next week only buy for 6 days instead of 7. Be diligent about doing this weekly. Make it part of your life and don't look at it as a chore.

Stretch Dinner Leftovers into Lunches - Plan your dinners so that each has enough portions to be dinner and lunch the next day. Pack up the leftovers before you have your dinner and you'll have lunch ready to go for the next day. This not only saves you time the next day for dinner it's a good way to stretch a dollar.

Buy only what you need & use coupons only if they make sense - If you bulk buy and have the storage space, by all means bulk buy at clubs like Costco and use coupons matched with sales. If you have a standing freezer, buy meat while only on sale and freeze, freeze, freeze. If you don't have the space, and we don't, we try to save money by only buying the groceries we need for that week. Also, buy only the sizes you need. My family is just Carlos and I so I buy small. I play a game with meats and look for the smallest portion and price. I only use coupons if they make sense. I mostly use them for household supplies and personal care items and try to bulk buy those if there is a sale and I have coupons.

Take Inventory and build a menu -  Also, if our pantry is looking a little full, we take inventory of what we have and I try to make meal plans according to what we already have. If I don't think I'll use some of the extras I have, then I will donate. Why do I have extras? That's because sometimes I end up not making a meal because we went out or the food spoiled faster than I expected. I try to avoid this by freezing meats that are planned for the end of the week and thawing them the day before I am to cook them. Also, for the last day of the week I sometimes will include frozen vegetables instead of fresh. I have been working hard in order to reduce the amount of extras I have.

Never shop hungry  - Whenever I grocery shop hungry, I find that a lot more extras make it into the cart than if I went after having eaten.

Other Tips on Saving Money 

Put your newspaper on vacation - I have a pricey subscription to the Sunday New York Times. It's really a luxury for me and I look forward to it every Sunday. However, recently I got hit with a lot of medical bills. So what I did is I ask NYT to put my subscription on hold for several weeks so I could pay off the debt. It helped a lot! Also, I got to avoid all of the election coverage.

Keep your tires properly inflated - You'll improve your gas mileage by more than 3%. You can save gas too by grocery shopping once a week.

Skip Christmas Presents if you don't have kids - I know this is not very popular but if you don't have children, try to skip Christmas presents. Or put a little money aside for buying a toy and donating it to Toys for Tots. Carlos and I have never given each other Christmas presents. Instead, we focus on presents for our respective birthdays and doing a Christmas card exchange with friends and family.

Reduce your spending on Holiday decor - Really think about if you absolutely need that large inflatable pumpkin, all those ornaments on your Christmas tree and those frou-frou Easter baskets. And holiday lights! It boggles my mind how much people spend in electricity and wiring for all those lights. Take it from someone who grew up without holidays, it's not worth it. You don't need it to be happy. If you absolutely want to celebrate a holiday with decoration, cherry pick which items of decor are most important for you and stick with those. Less is more.


Athens said...

This is a very thoughtful (no pun intended!) and timely post. With all the waste that we create, its a great idea to be more mindful of what we eat and how we spend. I love the cheap lunch idea. I do that every day because I am lucky enough to eat at home every day. But even if you eat at work, brown bagging it will ALWAYS be cheaper than buying from a restaurant or cafeteria. I love this post, keep up the good work!

The1stdaughter said...

Fantastic post! I always find that weeks where I actually take the time to plan out my meals I save so much more money. It's not even because we go out to eat instead (because with two kids that just doesn't happen), but the running to the store to get this & that always leads to extra unnecessary buys.

Also, on the decoration note...I never buy before the holidays. I always make a point of getting up early the day after to go to Target for their 50% off sales. You can save a bundle on decorations if you really feel like adding them to your collection. :)

Fantastic post and great ideas! :o)

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